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Position paper G1
Humane killing and processing of crustaceans
(adopted 17/10/03)

1 Introduction

1.1 RSPCA Australia demands that all crustaceans killed for food or other
purposes are killed humanely (as defined in policy G1.1 Humane slaughter).

1.2 A variety of methods are used to kill and process crustaceans. The choice of
method is influenced by the purpose of the processing, the species involved,
the scale of its application (commercial or otherwise) and the end product

1.3 The guidelines given here apply whether the animal is to be eaten raw
(sashimi) or cooked, and must be followed when processing live crustaceans
such as rocklobsters, crabs, Moreton Bay bugs and freshwater crayfish (such
as yabbies), amongst others.

2 Recommended methods

2.1 The most acceptable method of killing crustaceans is to effectively chill the
animal to render it insensible, followed by killing through splitting or spiking
to destroy the animals nerve centres.

2.2 Chilling in air

Crustaceans are cold blooded animals. When their temperature is reduced
their activity slows and eventually they become insensible. Chilling should
preferably be carried out in air (in a refrigerator or freezer) at a temperature
below 4C. The length of time required will vary across species and
conditions but chilling must be maintained until the animal appears
insensible (see 2.4) before further processing. This method produces
insensibility without causing osmotic shock (rupture of cells due to a sudden
increase in water content through osmosis). Chilling in air at deep freeze
temperatures (minus 15C or lower) for longer periods will result in the
eventual death of the animal.

2.3 Chilling in an ice/water slurry (tropical marine crustaceans only)

Chilling in an ice/salt water slurry is an acceptable alternative for tropical
species of marine crustaceans that are susceptible to cold temperatures.
Temperate species should not be chilled in this way as these animals are
likely to be affected by osmotic shock caused by the drop in salinity of the
water by dilution with ice.

a The length of time required will vary across species and conditions, but
as a guide, crustaceans should be placed into the ice slurry for a
minimum of 20 minutes, or until the animal appears insensible (see 2.4)
before further processing.
b The ice slurry should be created by filling a suitable container with
normal crushed ice and then adding chilled salt water. The ratio of ice to
Position paper G1
water should be 3:1, the cooling medium will then have the consistency
of wet concrete, and a temperature of minus 1C.
c The level of ice in the slurry must be monitored to ensure the
maintenance of the correct temperature and ratio of water to ice.

2.4 Signs of insensibility

Signs of insensibility will vary from species to species. As a general guide,
the crustacean can be assumed to be insensible if the abdomen or tail can
be easily extended or manipulated and the outer mouthparts can be moved
without resistance.

2.5 Splitting and spiking

Crustaceans must be killed by rapid destruction of the nerve centres. This is
most easily accomplished by cutting through the centreline of the head and
thorax (splitting). For crabs, the insertion of a knife into the head of the
animal (head spiking) destroys the main nerve centre and is a humane
method if properly carried out. This method is not recommended for
rocklobsters as they have several nerve centres. Splitting and head spiking
require skill to ensure a humane kill.

2.6 Other methods

Immersion in a clove oil bath has been found to be an effective and humane
method of killing crabs for human consumption. Electrical stunning methods
are also being developed for killing crustaceans and these appear to provide
a rapid and humane death.

3 Unacceptable methods

The following methods of processing crustaceans must not be used because
they cause an unacceptable degree of pain and suffering to the animal:

a Any processing of rocklobsters, freshwater crayfish or similar animals
involving the separation of the abdomen (tailpiece) from the thorax
(tailing) or removal of tissue, flesh or limbs while the animal is still alive
(including when in a chilled state).
b Placing live crustaceans into hot or boiling water.
c Placing live marine crustaceans in fresh water. Marine crustaceans suffer
and die from severe osmotic shock when placed in fresh water.
d Serving any dish involving a live crustacean for consumption.